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Definitions for Children and Teens

For children and teens, BMI ranges above a normal weight have different labels (overweight and obese). Additionally, BMI ranges for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages. For more information about BMI for children and teens (also called BMI-for-age), visit BMI for Children and Teens.

Defining Childhood Overweight and Obesity

photo of a scale with feetBody mass index (BMI) is a practical measure used to determine overweight and obesity. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height that is used to determine weight status. BMI can be calculated using either English or metric units. BMI is the most widely accepted method used to screen for overweight and obesity in children and adolescents because it is relatively easy to obtain the height and weight measurements needed to calculate BMI, measurements are non-invasive and BMI correlates with body fatness.6 While BMI is an accepted screening tool for the initial assessment of body fatness in children and adolescents, it is not a diagnostic measure because BMI is not a direct measure of body fatness.

Use of BMI to Screen for Overweight and Obesity in Children

For children and adolescents (aged 2–19 years), the BMI value is plotted on the CDC growth charts to determine the corresponding BMI-for-age percentile